What Gaming Content Creators Are Up Against
Creators face several problems ranging from revenue issues to discovery. This is our approach to solving them
Wed Nov 16 2022
5 min read
The battle for viewers’ attention is a high stakes game. Content platforms fight over content and top talent that brings the eyeballs to the advertisers that make the platforms rich. The only creators you hear about are those select few who’re getting the million dollar contracts and significant promotion. And while this is absolutely great for this small pantheon of stars (secure the bag!), most content creators face multiple challenges that make it nearly impossible to break through and make a career from their passion for gaming. Nobody is building for the mid to long tail gaming content creator.
A “winner takes all” revenue model
Gaming fans have never had an easier time sharing or accessing gaming content, but behind the curtains of this content explosion, most creators are hardly benefiting from current revenue-sharing models. While many content creators have cultivated multiple revenue sources and many live outside of the U.S. with a lower cost of living, the vast majority of the gaming creator community collectively takes home a tiny slice of the on-platform revenue they generate. This is despite contributing the majority of content and viewers to the global entertainment phenomenon that is gaming culture.
By most estimates, wealth concentration within the upper echelons of the creator community has increased as total usage of content-sharing platforms has grown when it comes to both live streaming and video-on-demand (VOD). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median U.S. household income in 2020 was $67,521. By contrast, only the top ~1,300 streamers on Twitch make this much from direct streaming revenue (subscriptions, ads, and tips). Not great when you consider that there are over 9.7 million unique creators monthly on Twitch. Only the top 0.015% of all streamers on Twitch bring in the equivalent of the median US household income. And over a fourth of the top 10,000 highest paid Twitch streamers don’t even make the US minimum wage.
Things aren’t much better when you look at how on-demand video creators are faring on VOD-focused platforms like YouTube. In order to join the YouTube Partner Program and start monetizing your videos, users must have at least 1,000 subscribers, in addition to factors such as minimum cumulative watch time requirements and strong community standing. In the event your video is marked for monetization, a viewer still has to watch a full 30 seconds of an ad before that viewer counts as a payable view for the creator. As a result, most YouTube views don’t end up leading to a direct payout for anyone but the platform itself.
Popular short form content platforms like TikTok and Instagram are even more disappointing when it comes to creator monetization options. In order to make any sort of money, most creators rely on third-party sponsorships or affiliate sales deals. As a result, these short form content platforms force creators to choose between authentic fan engagement and profitable third-party promotions, rather than rewarding them for the content they actually want to make.
Poor discovery features for new creators and content formats
It’s extremely time-consuming and expensive for content creators to leverage existing assets to effectively generate new forms of revenue, even if their content can be edited in a way that’s suitable for a wide range of platforms and viewers. This is a major issue for most content creators, given that streaming/recording, editing, and uploading videos is a labor-intensive process — especially when you’re working across multiple platforms each with their own algorithms and content sizing formats.
While Twitch streamers can take clips made from their streams and upload them to Twitter or Instagram, monetization is nearly non-existent on those platforms, so creators end up just giving that content away for free. For a platform like YouTube, creators often have to package multiple clips into one longer length video to meet algorithmic requirements, that is, a length that YouTube prefers for packaging multiple ads against the content. This level of work requires time and resources which many creators cannot afford to provide.
As more new creators and viewers are moving to short form video content, existing gaming content creators must rely on long-form content to drive revenue because they can’t afford to split their attention across multiple platforms that aren’t purpose-built to share gaming highlights. Take for example Instagram and TikTok, their content discovery is driven by content that’s adjacent enough with each other instead of solely on games. Users that post selfies, pictures of food, family, friends, or even meme creators all get bucketed into the same gaming category even if there is little to no actual gameplay.
Gaming creators are having a more difficult time gaining traction relative to other industries in short form content, even though social media platforms demand this content for their algorithms to reach niche audiences within larger communities. This is because non-gaming creators on these platforms often start off by focusing on a popular subtopic within their niche, before growing their channel through affiliate marketing and promotion through related consumer brands. This path isn’t as effective for most gaming creators as viewership is highly concentrated within a small handful of popular games. As a result, most creators have a hard time developing their own niche from the jump — even if they have their own unique approach or gameplay style.
The absence of true decision-making power
At the end of the day, most creators are at the mercy of the content platforms they populate, and individual users essentially have zero bargaining power or an actual voice in the rules and reward systems shaping their fan engagement experience. This lack of decision-making power has led to multiple in-platform policy fiascos that hurt creators’ bottom lines and ability to express themselves like #ADayOffTwitch and the hot tub streams controversy.
Platforms must share the responsibility of creators, who currently have to protect and manage every aspect of their streams and live chats. It’s important to find ways in which the creators and the wider community can have a say in how the platform operates.
To date, every content platform has decided what revenue share and piece of the pie creators receive. Creators have yet to have a say in how these decisions are made industry wide.
A rigged system prevents creators from overcoming challenges
Gaming creators shape the gaming community and industry. But the challenges creators face are a reflection of everything that’s wrong with the current gaming content ecosystem. After all, viewer count isn’t just achieved in a vacuum, and obscurity is difficult to overcome when platforms constantly change the rules and algorithms. The top gaming creators should be rewarded for rising to the top, but content platforms should offer more equitable revenue sharing and discovery options to the promising creators who are consistently delivering content and building communities that drive the success of these platforms.
FreshCut is focused on meeting the growing demand for quality, short form gaming content, bringing viewers more directly to new content, and offering gaming creators a new content-sharing model — putting creators in the driver’s seat and rewarding all forms of ecosystem participation, big and small. Stay tuned as FreshCut unveils more about its plans to help improve the ecosystem for gaming creators.
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